There’s an old shawl lying on my bed and writing this editorial I realize that it has been with me for almost all of my life—like a number of things in my family. It came along with my mother when she got married and I remember having appropriated it in my early teens. A sort of aso oke called achi, it is now a faded blue-grey colour and even the images on it, of chameleons, is faded as well. Yet, it remains a treasured heirloom and I wonder now how much longer I will have it and how much longer it would keep, a decade yet, two, more?
The twelfth issue of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine begins with a delightful essay by prizewinning writer and schoolteacher, Henry Onyeama, on books from his perspective and on the art of the review. This dying art of criticism has been a sort of bulwark which gives form to our literary spaces and as what pretends to be it continues to decline, one wonders what will become of our writing. Bereft of arbiters of taste who offer specialist opinions on the genres of creative craft, does everything not suddenly acquire some “taste”, does every piece of writing not indeed become tasteless? Henry, while abjuring the exclusivity of his opinions, still presents an essay that is as perceptive as it is instructive.
Folakemi Emem-Akpan makes her Sentinel Nigeria fiction debut with a touchingly told story of a violation and in the calm manner of her prose we see all the incidence of abuse. There is a ray of redemption at the end of the story but the riling question for the innocent abused is of course how they can forget. It is this question that cannot be redeemed away, this permanence becomes the burden they can carry well or less well but always an unwanted burden that they cannot cast away. Victor Alao’s The Lie makes the cut for its elegant handling of a possibly risqué subject and his ability to create a pastiche of young person’s lives and motives. There is a sense, at the end of his story, that the subject of its action, as crucial as it is to the students, Ray, NJ and Tisot, is quite besides the point—we imagine them growing older and this event, the surrounds of this delicious lie, fading into the irrelevance of those many things done in youthful angst. His story fixes a point of familiarity for most of us, forever.
We are pleased to feature thirteen poems by eight poets in this issue of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine; the subjects of these poems have ranged as widely as the forms employed, from hope to love to country. Chijioke Amu-Nnadi expresses a need, personal yet easily shared, to root oneself someplace and Chio makes clear the great credit of hope that such a need demands. Here, from his poem, returning home—
we have floundered through the years
you and i who neither swim nor sow
who till a farm in the air, who
watch from our perch on a rock
waters rise over farmlands
drown rivers, roads, even
bridges drown roots, drown
that last fading harvest
we flounder still, you and i
seeking footholds, we grab at
drifting clouds, fall off our
limited sky and sink
sink, all of us, sink
with every dark cloud, every
drone of fear, every click
of a seatbelt that holds us
down, immobilised, not moving
we go down, all of us
with the stubborn dream that
we would land on solid ground.
But perhaps the most powerful poem in this selection is Umar Abubakar Sidi’s Song of the Spheres? Umar Sidi has established himself as one of the most talented of a new generation of Nigerian poets with fresh poetic visions creating a balance between the old and the new.
Ecstatic cries echoed in the
Tube of the ears of the earth
And aroused this naked madness in me
Whispers of the winds and waves
And sent me swimming in the
Silence of the songs of the spheres
This issue of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine also includes a wide-ranging interview with culture administrator and Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Denja Abdullahi, in which he discusses his work, especially the beloved character Mairogo, a wandering minstrel who has achieved cult status in northern Nigeria. The interviewer, Ismaila Bala, succeeds in eliciting perceptive responses from his quarry that will form the basis of critical appraisal and artistic disagreements. Also in this issue are two reviews of two books that have grabbed the public attention in the last six months—Reviews Editor Nze Sylva Ifedigbo’s The Funeral Did Not End and long-time contributor Ukamaka Evelyn Olisakwe’s debut novel Eyes of a Goddess. Critical justice is attempted to be done on these books by Oluseun Onigbinde and Mazi Chaigozie Nwonwu respectively.
Returning to my room in which I am punching these keys, my eyes fall back on my shawl and I think that the crocheted weave of the thread it is woven from could very well tell the story of my life in intimate detail; I think this sense of unthreatening familiarity has made it endure for so long in my sentiment and esteem. The feel of it on my skin is the feel of me being familiar in my own skin. And I think this issue of the Sentinel Nigeria Magazine is a treasured shawl made from an intimate weave of words that tells our Nigerian story in the last three months splendidly. I raise this shawl, Sentinel 12, to wrap it around your shoulders, my reader, my friend and the question now is—will you accept it from me as a personal gift, to be treasured and kept?
Editor-in-Chief, Sentinel Nigeria Magazine
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